MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ — Welcome to “The Rock.”
Mike LoRiccio’s early goal set the tone and Jason Wolff added a goal and two assists for top-seeded Hillsborough as the Raiders fashioned a 4-2 victory over fourth-seeded Wayne to reach the state finals for the first time in school history in the NJSIAA Public A semifinals last night at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
Hillsborough will look to etch its name into the record books when it faces off with second-seeded Morris Knolls in the Public A final on March 4 at Prudential Center in Newark at 6:30 p.m.
LoRiccio, a junior forward, wasted little time giving Hillsborough (21-6-1) a 1-0 advantage, scoring 1:11 after the opening faceoff with an assist from Lleyton Soares.
“Getting the lead, that really got us moving out there,” Hillsborough junior Jude Kurtas, who finished with a goal and an assist to give him 55 goals and 56 assists on the season, said. “Our first-periods haven’t been too strong, so to come out of the first period with the lead, we knew we were in good hands — that goal really got us moving out there.”
Kurtas struck with 7:51 left in the second period, with assists from Mike Jandoli and Jason Wolff to give Hillsborough a 2-0 lead.
“I remember getting it down 2-on-1 with the guy, going through the attack triangle and just popping the bottle off,” Kurtas said.
The Raiders extended its advantage to 3-0 with 7:58 left in the game when Kurtas set up Wolff with 7:49 left to play.
Seemingly placed on their heels, the Knights showed signs of life when Chris Taranto struck just 20 seconds later, however, with an assist from Anthony Mazzerina to narrow the deficit to 3-1.
Mike Panchery put Hillsborough back up by three with 5:50 remaining in the third period, but Wayne never stopped battling and brought it back to within two a second time when Jared Cohen beat Hillsborough’s freshman keeper Jason LoRiccio (30 saves) with 4:43 remaining to make it 4-2.
“I was a little nervous when they started scoring right after we scored but we all just came back ready to put more in,” Kurtas, the state’s leading scorer with 111 points this season, said.
Hillsborough coach Chris Tommins was not surprised by the late charge from the Wayne Hills/Wayne Valley co-op, which entered Wednesday night’s semifinals riding a four-game winning streak.
“When they came to life, I knew they were going to because I’ve watched a bunch of their games before,” he said. “They’ve got some good guys out there. (Number) two (Jared Cohen) is a phenomenal defenseman. We haven’t really seen a defenseman like that this year. I knew they would come alive, but I was happy that we had the lead when they did, and we were able to battle back from there.”
Wayne keeper Dan Riina stopped 24 shots as the Knights close out yet another successful season at 15-9-3.
“It’s huge for us,” Tommins said. “You know, these kids have been working hard. Their goal is to get here and we have one more game left to close out the year. We’ll be playing a good team, but we’ll be excited because it means the world. I took over three years ago and we had six wins. We have 21 wins right now, which is amazing. It’s a good fete, it’s a full team effort and I’m real proud of the guys.”
— HHS Ice Hockey (@Boro_Ice_Hockey) February 28, 2019
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